Tag Archives: media freedom

Sri Lanka; Newspapers burned in Jaffna; Armed political thugs intimidate peaceful protest in Colombo

NfR, Networking for Rights in SriLanka, a net work of Sri Lankan journalists and Human rights defenders, expressed its strongest condemnation of blatant violations of people’s right to free expression reported form Jaffna and Colombo on today, 10th January 2013.

 In Jaffna Uthayan newspaper came under attack early this morning.  Mr. Nageswaran Piratheepan one of its delivery agent was followed by four ‘unidentified persons’ riding two motor bicycles. Mr. Piratheepan was stopped, beaten with poles, his motorbike and the newspapers were set on fire by them..  Mr. Piratheepan has been admitted to the Jaffna teaching hospital and reports say that one of his arms is broken in the assault. The assault took place at 5.30 AM at Maalu junction Jaffna. Continue reading

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Sri Lanka: State security forces obstruct peaceful assembly in Jaffna ; students and journalists assaulted and arrested

 

Press release/ 31 Nov 2012

  NfR Sri Lanka, a net work of journalists and human rights defenders, dismayed and shocked that once again the Government of Sri Lanka has unleashed state terror on students and journalists in Jaffna in flagrant violation of peoples right to peaceful assembly, an universal right enjoyed by people in the democratic world. This is an assault on freedom of expression rights as well.

 This brutal assault took place on 27th Nov 2012 in Jaffna when University students led remembrance was being held. Number of students was injured as a result, editor of the Jaffna based best selling news paper Uthayan was manhandled by the military and photographers were forced to delete the pictures of military and police brutality. Among the journalists assaulted are staff of another Jaffna based newspaper, Valampuri and students of the journalism training centre, Jaffna. Continue reading

Sri Lanka: Open and blatant violation of media independence by the President himself

Press release/ 29 Nov 2012/

NfR is shocked and dismayed to hear that the chairperson of the state controlled TV station, the Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation (SLRC) has been appointed as the official media spokesperson of President Mahinda Rajapaksa.

The Official web site of the GoSL carried a news item confirming the appointment; ‘Mohan Samaranayake has been appointed as the new Media Spokesman to the President in addition to his post as the Chairman of the Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation.’ the President’s Media Division (PMD) said.

This is an act heard of even in countries where an open dictatorship prevails. Such despotic rulers at least try to give a semblance of respect for the rights of the people to the freedom of expression as a tactic to deceive their subjects. Continue reading

Sri Lanka:Military barred journalists visiting the IDP relocation camp in Seeniyamottai and threatened to mind her own business

Press release 07.10.12

NFR wishes to draw attention to the number of feature articles published by print and web media on the situation of the 110 families who lived in the Menik Farm IDP camp and threats faced by the journalists while covering the relocation.

The articles provides  a cogent account of the current situation where the State appears to show the world that it is going ahead with the resettlement of the IDPs of the region expeditiously, but is not the case. This report exposes the fact that the government and the military are carrying out a resettlement program where people are being taken, not to their original homes, but to lands that have no infrastructure; nor are the people being equipped with the basic necessities of life. It is troubling to note that these displaced people are taken to uninhabited areas while the military continues to occupy their homes. Continue reading

Sri Lanka: Journalist assaulted, Photographer threatened and Editor sacked

Press release/ 30 Sep 2012

Mr. Prasad Purnimal, a provincial newspaper correspondent of the Puttalam District has been hospitalized after he was assaulted by security guards of the government hospital at Halawatha/Chilaw. 

Issuing a statement on 29th September, the Free Media Movement (FMM), the local press freedom watch dog said that the assault on Purnimal  is one in the indications of  the on-going anti-media attitude of the hospital security staff.   This assault had taken place while a government Deputy Minister and Army Major of Halawatha (Chilaw) were there. The FMM’s statement says that even though several days have passed after the assault, the police have, as usual, not taken any steps to investigate the incident and no one has been arrested so far. Continue reading

Report: Violation of Freedom of Expression Rights in Sri Lanka; Period: March 2012 – July 2012

Read as a PDF NfR report FOE violation in Sri Lanka, March – July 2012

NfR release – 27 July 2012

 Period: March 2012 – July 2012

 23 July 2012: Film Magazine banned for criticizing pro government film director

The distribution of the magazine called “Chitrapata” (Film) has been stopped due to the criticism of the movie and the Rajapaksa government in the article written by one Ranjith Perera.

http://sunandadeshapriya.wordpress.com/2012/07/25/chitrapata-magazine-banned-for-criticizing-kusa-pabha/#more-6998

 23 July 2012: Web site charged under Obscene Publications (Amendment) Act

The CID has informed the Colombo Magistrate’s Court that they have found material violating the Obscene Publications Act from the computers seized from the office premises of SrilankaMirror website. http://www.srilankamirror.com/news/557-srilankamirror-charged-under-obscene-publications-amendment-act

11 July 2012: Websites registration fee imposed

GoSL imposed a first off registration fee of Rs. 100,000 would be levied from each website, and that there would be a 50,000 rupee annual fee on all news casting websites. Local and International press freedom organisations condemned the move.

https://nfrsrilanka.wordpress.com/2012/07/19/sri-lanka-internet-freedom-further-restricted-by-imposing-registration-fees/

 25 July 2012: CID questions Uthayan Editor

The Editor of the Jaffna based Uthayan newspaper was questioned by the CID following a news story referring to Army Commander Jagath Jayasuirya. The Editor of the newspaper Mr. Premanand had represented the news paper during the inquiry which lasted 4 hours, sources said. http://www.dailymirror.lk/news/20440-cid-questions-uthayan-editor.html

 18 July 2012: Director News website questioned for forth day by CID

Director editorial of Sri Lanka X News and former director editorial of Sri Lanka Mirror, Ruwan Ferdinandis was summoned    to the CID for the forth day for questioning.

http://sunandadeshapriya.wordpress.com/2012/07/17/ruwan-ferdinandis-once-more-at-the-cid/#more-6980

 16 July 2012: Death threats issued to journalists in Mannaar

Two newspaper reporters in Mannaar, S.R. Lambert and ASM Faszmi have been issued death threats for their reporting on inciting violence at Koanthaip-piddi jetty recently.

http://www.tamilnet.com/art.html?catid=13&artid=35394

 17 July 2012: Six Sri Lankan journalists sue over their arrests

Six Sri Lankan web journalists of http://www.srilankamirror.com filed a court case Tuesday seeking for their arrests last month to be declared illegal and demanding compensation.

http://sunandadeshapriya.wordpress.com/2012/07/17/six-sri-lankan-journalists-sue-over-their-arrests-say-govt-trying-to-stifle-free-expression/#more-6978

 07 July 2012: Defense secretary tells editor: They will kill you

Sri Lankan defence secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa verbally abused and threatened Sunday Leader editor Frederica Janz during a telephone interview. http://www.srilankabrief.org/2012/07/gota-goes-berserk-tells-janz-is-pig.html

 05 July 2012: Journalist escape form an abduction attempt

An abduction attempt was made on Shantha Wijesooriya , 48  journalist of  Lanka X news website  at Nugegoda, suburb of Colombo city.  He was able to break free and escape in a three wheeler taxi. He left the country soon after. http://www.srilankabrief.org/2012/07/shantha-makes-written-complaint-to-igp.html

 08 July 2012: Stay order against Jaffna magistrate by Appeal court

A stay order was issued by the Appeal Court today against the Jaffna Magistrate from taking steps to make the Editor of the Uthayan newspaper to apologize in court over an article which appeared in the Jaffna based newspaper. http://colombogazette.com/stay-order-in-support-of-uthayan/

 01 July 2012: Sri Lanka seals office of pro-opposition websites

Police sealed an office from which two pro-opposition news websites operated, arrested nine workers and seized computers and documents. A court order enabled the sealing. https://nfrsrilanka.wordpress.com 

 29 June 2012: Magistrate summons Uthayan news paper editor

Uthayan Editor Thevanayagam Premananth was on Friday June 29 summoned to court by Jaffna Magistrate Manikavasagar Ganesaraja over an article published in the newspaper.  http://sunandadeshapriya.wordpress.com/2012/07/01/jaffna-magistrate-compels-editor-to-apologise-in-courts-over-article-in-tamil-newspaper/

 26 June 2012: Govt imposes necessary registration of websites

 Sri Lanka’s Ministry of Mass Media and Information published an application form which the news websites operating within or outside the country publishing news on Sri Lanka and its citizens will have to use to register the site under the Ministry.

http://www.news360.lk/politics/sri-lanka-starts-website-registration-program-application-is-issued-online

 26 June 2012: Five Tamil language web sites banned

Five websites were blocked by Sri Lanka services providers. The sites   www.tamilwindotcomwww. dothirvu.com, www.sarithamdotcom, www.ponguthamildotcom , www.pathivudotcom     were not accessible through any of the  Sri Lankan  internet service  providers.

  https://nfrsrilanka.wordpress.com/2012/06/27/sri-lanka-web-censorship-reaches-new-level-five-tamil-language-web-sites-blocked/ 

 13 June 2012: Ceylon Today editor in chief forced to quit

The management of the newspaper Ceylon Today forced its editor in chief Lalith Allahakkoon to resign on 13 June. The journalist received no letter of dismissal.

http://en.rsf.org/sri-lanka-ceylon-today-editor-in-chief-22-06-2012,42866.html

 15 June 2012:  Journalist/ media activist receive threats to his life

Sujith Mangala de Silva, a journalist attached to ‘Lankadeepa’ newspaper  and the president of the United Media Forum, a media rights group complained to the  police headquarters that two unidentified men had visited his home and threatened him.

http://english.srilankamirror.com/2012/06/lankadeepa-journalist-complains-about-threats-to-his-life/

 05 June 2012: Channel-4 journalist deported form Colombo

Shirani Sabaratnam, who works at the London-based Channel-4 TV Station as an editor and a presenter, was detained on arrival and later deported to Britain.

http://www.dailymirror.lk/news/19181-channel-4-journalist-deported.html

 28 May 2012: Muslim journalist assaulted 

An official employed by the Sri Lankan Minister of Industries and Trade, Rishard Badurdeen, assaulted a 72-year-old Muslim journalist, MA Cader, for having taken part in a prayer expressing solidarity with Mannaar Bishop. http://www.tamilnet.com/art.html?catid=13&artid=35234

 12 May 2012: Journalist writes to IGP alleging plot against him

Senior journalist C.J. Amaratunga has written to the police chief alleging a plot by a section of the government against him using the police. The IGP has not responded to the letter send by the senior journalist. http://english.srilankamirror.com/2012/05/journalist-c-j-amaratunga-writes-to-igp-alleging-plot-against-him/

 17 May 2012:  Sri Lanka’s Supreme Court rejecte the Internet Restrictions case

A three-member bench of Sri Lanka’s Supreme Court, declined to give leave to proceed in a case filed by FMM under the country’s fundamental rights provisions against the blocking of certain websites.http://sunandadeshapriya.wordpress.com/2012/05/17/ifj-disappointed-by-sri-lankas-supreme-court-decision-on-internet-restrictions/

 02 May 2012: CCD detains journalists

The Colombo Crimes Division (CCD) detained two journalists, Indika Sri Aravinda and Randiva newspaper photographer Sajeewa Chinthaka for taking visuals and images outside the CCD office in Dematagoda. http://colombogazette.com/ccd-detains-journalists/

 29 April 2012: Govt. officials forcefully delete TV visuals

Officials from the Urban Development Authority (UDA) forcefully detained a TV cameraman and a producer of Sihatha TV abused them and deleted the visuals they had taken of some stalls being removed at the Pettah fish market. http://sunandadeshapriya.wordpress.com/2012/04/29/govt-officials-forcefully-delete-tv-visuals/

 04 April 2012: Slander campaign against journalist union leader

A campaign of slander and vilification was launched against the leader of the Sri Lanka Working Journalists Association (SLWJA) Gnanasiri Koththigoda, president of the SLWJA through state-controlled media. http://sunandadeshapriya.wordpress.com/2012/04/04/halt-the-slander-campaign-against-sri-lankas-journalist-union-leader/

 March 23 2012: Govt censors BBC Tamil, Sinhala services

Sri Lankan state-run Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation (SLBC), which relays BBC’s Tamil and Sinhala services in the island, avoided airing Sandeshya, the BBC Sinhala service on Sunday. On 24th of March 2012 the Sinhala service was not aired at all as it carried a story quoting an exiled journalist Poddala Jayantha, who was forced to leave the island after being abducted and tortured.http://tamilnet.com/art.html?catid=13&artid=35035

Sri Lanka: Internet freedom further restricted by imposing registration fees

Press release/ 20 July 2012

 The NfR condemns the recent actions taken by the Ministry of Mass Media and Communication in Sri Lanka to curtail the dissemination of ideas and information through websites, imposing registration fees, including the blocking of certain websites, raids on the office of two websites and the arrest and detention of staff at the office.

 In November 2011, the government blocked 5 websites and asked all those websites carrying any content relating to Sri Lanka or the people of Sri Lanka, uploading from Sri Lanka or abroad to apply for ‘accreditation’. Following this, many websites did in fact seek and obtain the said ‘accreditation’.

 On 11 July 2012, Mr. Keheliya Rambukwella the Minister of Mass Media and Communication, proposed to the Cabinet that the Press Council law be amended to make provision for the registration of newscasting websites. The Press Council (Act No. 5 of 1973) was reintroduced to Sri Lanka in June 2009, in the face of many protests from media freedom groups in Sri Lanka and abroad, who pointed to the fact that nothing about its arbitrary nature had changed in the years when it had been held in abeyance.

 According to the Cabinet press release that followed, it was announced that a first off registration fee of Rs. 100,000 would be levied from each website, and that there would be a 50,000 rupee annual fee on all news casting websites including those that had registered in January 2012. There is no registration fee for any  print media in Sri Lanka.

 The Cabinet press release stated that the main objective of this amendment was ‘to ensure that the contents of the websites do no harm to defenseless individuals’. Minister Rambukwella went on record saying that this step was necessary ‘ to maintain dignity and decorum in the media’.

 It is clear that without a clear definition of what constitutes a ‘news casting’ website this amendment and the regulation of websites imposed by the process of paid registration could become a tool for silencing democratic dissent and restricting the freedom of opinion and expression which is guaranteed by the Sri Lankan constitution as well as by international human rights law. In an environment in which repression of media freedom, intimidation and attacks of journalists and media activists and ‘hate’ campaigns against media freedom organizations have resulted in an exodus of journalists and media persons from the country, this new step can only be seen as a further erosion of media freedom and the right to democratic dissent in Sri Lanka.

 NfR strongly opposes all attempts to suppress people’s right to opinion, information and expression in order to control abuse of the internet and reiterate that the Sri Lankan Penal Code contains sufficient laws to control defamation if so required.

  NfR maintains its position that working with the media community to develop tools and mechanisms of self-regulation guided by universal principles of media ethics remains the only acceptable path to prevent any abuse of media freedom.

 

 

Sri Lanka: Offices of two websites raided by state intelligence apparatus; 7 Journalists and two staff arrested; 6 computers confiscated

NfR Alert: 29 June 2012

This morning around 11.45 am around 25 offices from police intelligence arms, namely Criminal Investigation Department (CID) and Colombo Crime Division (CCD) raided two popular tri lingual news and opinion web site operated form Colombo. They are http://english.srilankamirror.com/  and http://www.srilankaxnews.com/ . Both Sri Lanka Mirror and SriLankaXnews are read by tens of thousands of readers daily.

 Sri Lanka Mirror is registered with the information ministry and SriLankaXnews is the official web site of the opposition United National Party.  Both of offices  we located at 71, Ferry road, Athul Kotte, Kotte, a suburb of Colombo.

 Police has obtained a court order to search the premises of both web sites.   But the acting police spokesperson Sanjeewa Madawatta has told Yukthiya web site that he dose not have any knowledge of the raid and reasons for it.

 Police has surrounded the residence of Mr. Ruwan Ferdinanz, current editorial director of the Sri Lanka X news and former editorial director of the Sri Lanka Mirror and has demanded that he surrender his laptop computer to them. By the time he has left the residence.

 The journalists arrested are being questioned at the notorious 4th floor of the Criminal Investigation Department. They are:

Mr.Kalum Shwantha Rodrigu – Editor SriLanka Mirror
Ms.Shiwanthi Manawadu 0 Weekend editor, SriLanka Mirror
Ms.Himashi Karunarathan, Features editor, SriLanka Mirror
Ms.Tarindu Rajapaksha, Feature writer, SriLanka Mirror
Mr.Ajith senavirathna, Photo journalist, SriLanka Mirror
Mr.Zidick Kariyappa, editor, Tamil section, Sri Lanka X news
Mr.J. Subash Jayawardana, Journalist , Feature writer, Sri Lanka X news
———-

Mr.Asanaka Nimathna, Managing editor Sri Lanka Mirror  
Ms. R.W. Premawathi, Offcie assistance, Sri Lanka Mirror   
 

Mr. Sunil Jayasekara, secretary of the Free Media Movement of Sri Lanka told NfR Sri Lanka that this raid is another attempt to intimidate non state media in Sri Lanka and joint efforts need to face mounting intimidations and censorship.  He calls on all democratic forces in the country to rise against  this dangerous trend of media suppression.

Mr. Ruwan Ferdinanz told NfR Sri Lanka that at a time that three Provincial Councils dissolved and elections are to be held in two months time closure of opposition and independent media outlets and threats an intimidation directed against journalists and media should be considered as a great threat to rule of law and democracy in Sri Lanka.

 

Sri Lanka: Editor sacked; NfR expresses shock and dismay

(see comment below) 

NfR Sri Lanka, a network of Sri Lankan journalists and human rights defenders express its shock and dismay on the sacking of Ceylon Today editor Mr. Lalith Alahakoon. Mr. Alahakoon is a senior journalist who has edited number of English dailies in Sri Lanka. He was sacked form the Ceylon Today newspaper on 14 June 2012.

 Ceylon Today’, published by Ceylon Newspapers owned by opposition parliamentarian and business tycoon Tiran Alles. He represents the Democratic National Alliance, which is led by defected presidential candidate and former army commander General Sarath Fonseka.

 According to reliable reports Mr. Alahakoon has been sacked for not obeying unethical orders form the management.  According to media reports the reason given for Mr. Alahakoon’s removal is that he had refused to publish certain politically biased news stories, published by the sister newspaper ‘Mawbima’, in the English newspaper.

Editorial freedom is an accepted media practice in ethical journalism. Editors have the right to decide on the content of the newspaper without any interference of the management. To fulfill the people’s right to information on which freedom of expression rests, the management and the editorial of any news media needs clearly define separate roles. The relation ship between the two entities should be at ‘hands length’ so that they are protected from each others’ undue influences. 

In Sri Lanka today not only the repression by the state but also unethical interferences by the owners/ management impose a debilitating effect on freedom of the press.

Removal of Mr. Lalith Alahakoon from the editorship of the Ceylon and sacking him form the Ceylon Today editorial staff is a severe blow to independence journalism in Sri Lanka.  NfR joins hands with all those who oppose this un- democratic and arbitrary action by the management of the Ceylon News Papers.

Steering Committee, NfR Sri Lanka

Steering committee : Kshama Ranawana ( Canada) Lionel Bopage ( Australia), Nadarasa Sarawanan (Norway), Nadarajah Kuruparan(UK) Padmi Liyanage (Germany), Raveendran Pradeepan (France), Rudhramoorthy Cheran (Canada), Saman Wagaarachchi ( USA), Sunanda Deshapriya ( Switzerland)

Commnet received form Media activist in Sri Lanka

I am an admirer and supporter of your campaign. However, I must make two comments with regard to your Press Release re the apparent sacking of Lalith Alahakoon (who is an old colleague and friend of mine) from Ceylon Today (CT).

 1) Inaccurate information:- 

1.a.) ‘Sacking’:  The details regarding the departure of Lalith and several others from the Ceylon Today are yet unclear. I am not clear whether Lalith was actually sacked or tricked into believing he was being sacked and, therefore, departed. 

1.b.) ‘Editor’ :  Lalith was NOT the ‘Editor’ of the CT newspaper. He was Director – Editorial and a member of the CT Board of Directors. The Editor of CT is Hana Ibrahim, who remains in her post. 

 2) ‘Editorial Freedom’: as a journalist of some 30+ experience, a student of  the mass media and a teacher of journalism, I fail to see the relevance of the concept of ‘Editorial Freedom’ to this particular incident. Indeed I fail to see the relevance of that very abstract concept of Editorial Freedom to the concrete issue of employment of a journalist. At its best, ‘Editorial Freedom’ is a vague concept and, as far as I know, is not something that can be applied in any determinate way to the day-to-day practices of the media industry.  Of course, any attempt to compel an employee (not just a journalist) to break the law or betray confidences or any such unethical activity must be resisted and condemned. But this is very specific and relates to specific laws and ethical values and has nothing to do with the vague concept of ‘editorial freedom’.

 I have the impression that Lalith has fallen victim to unfair and un-ethical (and vicious) personnel management practices by the CT. That they employed trickery and undue pressure to push Lalith out of his influential position in the CT due to differences between him and the CT management in the area of editorial policy seems clear. From my incomplete understanding of the affair, I am not sure what exactly the editorial policy issue was. However, from a ‘rights’ point of view, I, and other locally based activists are endeavouring to obtain details of the unfair labour practices that seem to have been employed by CT in expelling Lalith and colleagues. We will act accordingly. The difference of views on editorial policy cannot be equated with the ‘rights’ of an employment of a journalist. In my own extensive professional experience I have NEVER worked in any newspaper establishment in my whole career in which I have been fully in agreement with the newspaper’s owner’s editorial policies. Indeed, that is why I, too, have been either summarily removed or have voluntarily resigned from some professional positions I have held in my career which began in 1978. Given my understanding of the nature of modern journalism and the media industry, I do NOT expect to see the vague concept of ‘editorial freedom’ applied in any concrete/specific form in any part of the industry or profession. Even if the journalists themselves own and manage a newspaper, editorial policy cannot be “free” but will have to be the subject of a collective or consensual agreement of the owning journalists – even in such a scenario it is obvious that there cannot be any editorial ‘freedom’ practised by either an individual journalist or section of journalists in that establishment.

 Given his extensive professional skills and experience and stature, Lalith’s departure from CT is a big loss to the media industry in SL. I was also dismayed by Lalith’s abrupt departure. I am glad that your campaign has taken up his case and I hope that you will pursue it in accordance with its actual contours.

The statement released by Lalith Alahakoon

Sequence of events relating to editorial crisis at ‘Ceylon Today’ newspaper

By Lalith Allahakkoon
This is the full text of a public statement issued to the media by Lalith Allahakkoon the Editor in Chief and Editorial Director of “Ceylon Today”about recent events that have caused an Editorial crisis in the English newspaper published in Colombo

1. At around 7 p.m. on the night of Wednesday June 13, Executive Director of Ceylon Newspapers Mr. Dushyantha Basnayake summoned me to his office and said there were several issues to be discussed. Firstly, he informed me that the management had decided to terminate the employment of Senior Cartoonist at Ceylon Today Wasantha Siriwardane.

I informed him that while I was satisfied with his performance, if the management was not happy with him and they wished to discontinue him, he should firstly be warned in writing to give him an opportunity to rectify matters.

2. Subsequently Mr. Basnayake informed me that the management had decided to ask me to leave due to several reasons –
(a) My alleged association with Ranil Wickremesinghe and the UNP –(with whom I informed him I have not even had a conversation in the past year, but even if I was, as a journalist and an editor I do not see how this would constitute a wrongdoing)
(b) that I failed to greet Chairman Tiran Alles at a reception held at the Indian High Commissioner’s residence in Colombo and
(c) I failed to publish the unsubstantiated lead story by the Mawbima saying there would be a presidential election in 2013 and contradicted the story the next day. However on this point I clarified that the Ceylon Today story was related to the provincial council elections and not to the presidential elections. I also informed him that in any case the Mawbima lead story was inaccurate and had no legal basis in my opinion. In my experience, a newspaper cannot publish based on the sensational impact of a story alone, but must adhere to certain ethic codes and accuracy.

3. Mr. Basnayake then informed me that my editorial policy and the management’s editorial policy do not tally. I reminded him that when this newspaper was begun, Chairman Tiran Alles said Ceylon Today would be an independent and non-partisan newspaper – and even told the editorial team that they would not be required to publish stories praising him. However as time progressed, and subsequent to everything that has happened, the impression created is that the Chairman’s intention was to use me and my editorial team to specifically target and attack his political opponents. I informed Mr. Basnayake that as an editor I could not compromise on journalistic ethics and editorial independence as spelled out by the company at the outset of this project. If there was dissatisfaction with my performance, up to June 13, the management had not indicated this to me in writing or in any other way.

4. Mr. Basnayake then informed me that the management wanted me to leave. I requested the termination notice in writing.

5. On the morning of Thursday June 14, members of the Ceylon Today staff informed me that Ms.Hana Ibrahim had summoned an editorial meeting and announced that the management had asked me to leave. She requested the staff to extend their support to her to publish Ceylon Today. She told the editorial staff that they must help her to carry forward my ideas in my absence.

6. A few hours later, Mr. Basnayake summoned a meeting of Ceylon Today Department Heads and informed them that the management had made the decision to terminate me because I was not following the editorial policy line the management wanted. Mr. Basnayake requested the heads of department to lend their support to Ms. Ibrahim. Subsequently Mr. Basnayake held private meetings with senior editors Wilson Gnanadass and Dharisha Bastians to convince them to remain at Ceylon Today, urging them that despite my removal, they should continue to work at the newspaper.

7. On June 14 when I reported to work and made several telephone calls to Mr. Basnayake informing him that since I had not been served with the letter of termination so far, I had been compelled to report to work. He told me repeatedly that the letter would arrive within an hour, 30 minutes etc.

8. Finally Mr. Basnayake asked me to return to my residence and said that he would deliver the letter to my residence.

9. . Following announcements by Ms. Hana Ibrahim and subsequently the management (Mr. Basnayake) that I had been terminated and Ms. Ibrahim would be tasked with overseeing Ceylon Today operations, four senior journalists at the newspaper tendered their resignations to Ms. Ibrahim in protest. They were Deputy Editors Wilson Gnanadass and Dharisha Bastians, and senior journalists Rasika Jayakody and Dinidu De Alwis. They informed Ms. Ibrahim that they disagreed with the management decision to summarily dismiss me for trying to maintain editorial independence that was promised by the management when the newspaper commenced publication.

10 I made several telephone calls to him on June 15, and yet again Mr. Basnayake promised to get back to me in an hour. Since that time, he has ceased to respond to my telephone calls.

11. On Saturday (June 16) I reported to work in order to coordinate the Sunday newspaper. When I entered my office, I found it locked. The security officers subsequently unlocked the door but when I entered and attempted to commence work, I found that my official Computer had been deactivated and I no longer was able to access my machine.
Lalith Allahakkoon
Director / Editor in Chief
Ceylon Today
June 17, 2012

Sri Lanka: 2012 Submission to the UN Universal Periodic Review by NfR, FMM & INFORM on Freedom of Expression Rights in Sri Lanka

Read as a PDF hereNfR Sri Lanka – joint UPR submission – Sri Lanka Freedom of Expression Rights – November 2012

Networking for Rights in Sri Lanka

Free Media Movement, Sri Lanka

INFORM Human Rights Documentation Center, Sri Lanka

 

 

Freedom of Expression Rights in Sri Lanka

NGO Submission

Universal Periodic Review second cycle onSri Lanka(1 November 2012)

April 23, 2012

 

Submitted by:

 

Networking for Rights in Sri Lanka,

C/o 18953,

Shermanway,#5,

Reseda,CA91335,USA

NfR.SriLanka@gmail.com;

http://www.nfrsrilanka.org/

 

For Further information please contact:

Sunanda Deshapriya at  sunandadeshapriya@gmail.com

Sunila Abeysekera  at sunilasj2011@gmail.com

 

In cooperation with:

 

Free Media Movement, C/o No 96,Kirula Road,Colombo 05,Sri Lanka,  

fmmsrilanka@gmail.com and

 

INFORM Human Rights Documentation Center, 237/22, Vijaya Kumaratunga Mawatha, Colombo 5, Sri Lanka, informcolombo@gmail.com

 

For further information, please contact:

NfR.SriLanka@gmail.com, fmmsrilanka@gmail.com and informcolombo@gmail.com

 

 

 

  1. NfR Sri Lanka, a net work of human rights defenders and journalists of Sri lanka together with the Free Media Movement, an organisation of journalists, writers and press freedom defenders in Sri Lanka and INFORM human rights documentation center Sri Lanka – submits this report to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) on the situation of Freedom of Expression and Opinion, to be considered in the second cycle of UPR on Sri Lanka to be reviewed at the 14th session in October – November 2012. According to the framework for the second UPR cycle, emphasis should be given to the recommendations accepted by the country under review. Therefore, a main source of reference is the documents A/HRC/8/46 together with the responses of the Government of Sri Lanka to the recommendations contained in document A/HRC/8/46/Add.1.

 

  1. In section 2 this document also deals with issues relating to Freedom of Expression & Opinion inSri Lankasince the last UPR process ofSri Lankain May 2008. 

 

Section 1: Assessment of the implementation of recommendations accepted by the Government of Sri Lanka and voluntary commitments made during the UPR process in 2008

 

  1. In general, there has been little progress on many of those recommendations made in UPR 2008. Compared to the first UPR in 2008, the human rights situation in Sri Lanka remains bleak and lack of impartial and speedy investigations into killings, abductions, assaults, threats and hate campaigns on journalists and media workers remains a grave threat to freedom of expression in Sri Lanka.

 

  1. According to the document A/HRC/8/46, paragraph 82, A.4, Sri Lankaaccepted the recommendation by Ukraineto “Cooperate actively with international mechanisms (…) as well as special procedures of the Human Rights Council”. Until now, Sri Lanka has refused to invite the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Opinion and 6 other mandate holders who have requested for invitations to visit Sri Lanka[i].  In 2006 when Sri Lanka became a member of the UN Human Rights Council for the years 2006-2008 GoSL made a commitment to invite the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression which it has not fulfilled to date[ii].

 

  1. In November 2011 the Free Media Movement accused the GoSL of deliberately misleading the UN Committee Against Torture (UN CAT) with regard to prominent cases of arrest and conviction, abduction and torture and disappearance of journalists in 2008-2009[iii]. Journalist J. S. Tissainayagam denied that he ever expressed complicity to an offence or remorse as claimed by Mr. Mohan Peiris, senior legal advisor to the Cabinet of Sri Lanka, during the sessions of the UN CAT[iv]. Press freedom activist Poddala Jayantha denied claims of the Government to the UN CAT that he requested the Police to stop the investigations into his abduction and torture[v]. Mrs. Sandya Ekneligoda, also challenged Mr. Peiris to disclose information about the whereabouts of her husband, disappeared journalist/cartoonist Prageeth Ekneligoda[vi].

 

  1. Cooperation with HR mechanisms goes beyond the submission of reports and information. Meaningful cooperation with the OHCHR requires the GoSL to reveal the implementation of the treaties, the recommendations of treaty bodies, of special procedures, and UPR recommendations at the national level.

 

  1. According to the document A/HRC/8/46, paragraph 82/39 Sri Lankaaccepted the recommendation by Irelandto take measures to safeguard freedom of expression and protect human rights defenders, and effectively investigate allegations of attacks on journalists, media personnel and human rights defenders and prosecute those responsible.[vii]  There has been no concrete progress in investigations of attacks on journalists and media organisations including the killings and disappearances of journalists.
  2. On 15th Nov 2011, more than 3 years after GoSL accepted the above mentioned recommendation, the Lessons Learned and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) appointed by the President of Sri Lanka observed that ‘The Commission was deeply disturbed by persistent reports concerning attacks on journalists and media institutions and killing of journalists and the fact that these incidents remain to be conclusively investigated and perpetrators brought to justice.’ (9.114). This clearly shows that no action has been taken to implement the above mentioned recommendation.

 

  1. 9.      For example none of the below listed killings/abductions and assaults of media personal after the May 2008 UPR process have been investigated to a completion and those responsible held accountable. [viii]

 

  1. Killed:

 

                                i.            Paranirupasingham Devakumar: Sirasa, Shakthi and MTV Television Network Jaffna district correspondent P. Devakumar was hacked to death on 28 May 2008.

 

                              ii.            Lasantha Wickrematunga: Chief Editor of The Sunday Leader was killed on 08 January 2009.

 

                            iii.            Puniyamoorthy Sathiyamoorthy: long standing Tamil journalist was killed by artillery fire within the no fire zone in Vanni demarcated by the government on 12 Feb 2009.

 

  1. Abducted/ Assaulted

 

                          i.                  Keith Noyahr: Deputy Editor and Defense analyst of The Nation was abducted on 22 May 2008 and dropped near his home the following morning.  Noyahr had been severely beaten and was hospitalised for treatment following the attack.

 

                        ii.                  Thiruchelvam Thirukumaran: A Freelance journalist was abducted from his home in Dehiwela on 21 June 2008 and released two day later. He had been subjected to mental and physical torture and was hospitalised for treatment.

 

                      iii.                  Namal Perera: Deputy-head of the advocacy section of the Sri Lanka Press Institute (SLPI) and journalist was assaulted by a group of people in an attempt to abduct him on 30 June 2008. He was hospitalised for treatment following the attack.

 

                      iv.                  Upali Tennakoon: Chief Editor of Rivira Sinhala Weekly was assaulted using sharp weapons in an attempt to kill him on his way to work on 24 January 2009. He was hospitalised for treatment following the attack.

 

                        v.                  N. Vithyatharan: Editor of Tamil language dailies Uthayan and Sudaroli was abducted and assaulted on 26 February 2009.  Police spokesman Gunasekara, who first said that the editor was abducted by unidentified men, hours later, admitted that he had been arrested. He was hospitalised for treatment.

 

                      vi.                  Poddala Jayantha: Senior journalist and General Secretary of the Sri Lanka Working Journalists Association was abducted on 1 June 2009. He was severely beaten and left by the road side several hours later.  He was admitted to the intensive care unit of theColombo GeneralHospital and underwent two operations to correct injuries suffered during the attack.  

 

                    vii.                  Prageeth Eknaligoda: A Cartoonist and writer was disappeared on 24 January 2010 two days prior to the presidential election. There has been no information regarding Mr. Ekneligoda despite appeals by his wife and rights activists to conduct a credible investigation into his case.

 

                  viii.                  Gnanasundaram Kuganathan: News editor of Uthayan Newspaper, aJaffna based Tamil daily was severely assaulted with iron bars on 29 July 2011.  Mr. Kuganathan was seriously injured and hospitalised for treatment following the attack.

 

  1. Media institutions attacked/ burned

 

                          i.                  MBC/MTV network:  An armed group of nearly 15 people destroyed equipment and set fire to the MTV-MBC station early morning on 06 January 2009.

 

                        ii.                  Siyatha TV: An armed mob stormed the Siyatha TV and radio station in central Colombo, and set fire to the premises on July 30 2010.

 

                      iii.                  Lanka e News: The office of the web site was set on fire on 31st January 2011. The computer Hall and the library were completely destroyed.

 

  1. According to document A/HRC/8/46, paragraph 82 / 40 Sri Lankaaccepted the recommendation by Denmarkto take measures to improve safeguards for freedom of the press;

 

  1. More than 3 years after GoSL accepted this recommendation, in November 2011 the LLRC recommended that:

 

9.115 Freedom of expression and right to information, which are universally regarded as basic human rights play a pivotal role in any reconciliation process. It is therefore essential that media freedom be enhanced in keeping with democratic principles and relevant fundamental rights obligations, since any restrictions placed on media freedom would only contribute to an environment of distrust and fear within and among ethnic groups. This would only prevent a constructive exchange of information and opinion placing severe constraints on the on-going reconciliation process. The Commission strongly recommends that:

a) All steps should be taken to prevent harassment and attacks on media personnel and institutions.

b) Action must be taken to impose deterrent punishment on such offences, and also priority should be given to the investigation, prosecution and disposal of such cases to build-up public confidence in the criminal justice system.

c) Past incidents of such illegal action should be properly investigated. The Commission observes with concern that a number of journalists and media institutions have been attacked in the recent past. Such offences erode the public confidence in the system of justice. Therefore, the Commission recommends that steps should be taken to expeditiously conclude investigations so that offenders are brought to book without delay.

d) The Government should ensure the freedom of movement of media personnel in the North and East, as it would help in the exchange of information contributing to the process of reconciliation.

e) Legislation should be enacted to ensure the right to information.

 

  1. This recommendation shows that no concrete improvements has been made as requested by the above mentioned recommendation A/HRC/8/46, paragraph 82 / 40.  So far no action has been taken by the GoSL to implement those recommendations including the enactment of a Right to Information Act.

 

  1. The Committee to Protect Journalist (CPJ), an internationally recognised press freedom organisation, in its 2012 report said that ” The government of Mahinda Rajapaksa has failed to prosecute any perpetrators in the nine murders that have taken place during his time in power, first as prime minister and then president.  In recent months, government officials have issued brazen public threats of violence against their critics, an alarming development given that 60 percent of Sri Lankan victims were known to have received threats before they were killed.”  [ix]

 

  1. The International Federation of the Journalists (IFJ), an organisation with 600,000 members in 140 countries ”strongly deplored the alarming escalation in hostile rhetoric and the barely concealed threats of reprisals that have been made against some of the country’s leading journalists and human rights defenders by representatives of the Sri Lankan government and by state-owned media outlets.[x] (26 March 2012)

 

  1. One glaring example of the impunity enjoyed by Press freedom offenders is the case if Minister Mervyn Silva. On March 23, Sri Lanka’s Minister for Public Relations, Mervyn Silva addressed a public demonstration against the adoption of a resolution on Sri Lanka at the 19th session of the UN Human Rights Council, threatening to “break the limbs” of any of the exiled journalists if they dared set foot in the country again.

 

  1. ‘Silva has been known for several bruising encounters with the media in recent years and was in July 2009, credibly reported as publicly claiming credit for the murder of newspaper editor Lasantha Wickramatunge in January and the assault on Jayantha in June, said IFJ.[xi]

 

  1. No inquiry was held and no disciplinary action was taken against the Minister by the GoSL and according to media reports the inquiry against him has been suspended.[xii]

 

  1. Improving the general human rights situation of the country has direct relevance to the full enjoyment of people’s right to information.

 

  1. According to document A/HRC/8/46, paragraph 82 / 2, 5, 12 and 13  Sri Lanka accepted the recommendations by respectively the Czech Republic, Ukraine, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Germany, Ireland, Canada, Turkey; Algeria and the Netherlands to;

 

Strengthen and ensure the independence of its human rights institutions such as the National Human Rights Commission in accordance with the Paris Principles, including through implementation of the 17th Amendment at the earliest, and ensure its pluralist character (82/2);

 

Try to respond in a timely manner to the questionnaires sent by the special procedures (82/5);

 

Further support human rights machinery and capacity building in its national institutions to implement the human rights instruments, such as the introduction of a human rights charter as pledged in 2006(82/12);

 

That the National Plan of Action provide specific benchmarks within a given timeframe (82/13);

 

  1. The 18th Amendment to the Constitution of Sri Lanka has seriously undermined the independence of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), National Police Commission and the Election Commission (still to be appointed) among other commissions set up by the 17th amendment to the Constitution.  The 18th amendment has completely nullified the 17th amendment.

 

  1. The NHRC still remains on B status after a review by the Sub Committee on Accreditation in 2009. Since 2010, it had shown reluctance to accept complaints with regard to disappearances (E.g. case of disappeared journalist/ cartoonist Prageeth Ekneligoda) and harassment of journalists (E.g. Media trade unionistDharmasiri Lankapeli) and to pursue such cases with a sense of urgency. The NHRC has failed to exercise its’ powers to investigate the countless attacks, restrictions, threats to freedom of expression since 2008 and despite specific requests, had not pursued options such as producing and placing before parliament a report on the situation of Freedom of Expression and Opinion in Sri Lanka

 

  1. A number of questionnaires sent by the Special Rapportuer on Human Rights defenders has not been responded to at all.

 

  1. No human rights charter has been prepared.

 

  1. The Human Rights Action Plan remains as a mere document even in March 2012. According to Dr. Rajiva Wijesinghe ruling party member of parliament, and Secretary to the Ministry of Human Rights during the 2008 UPR process, no guide lines had been sent to ministries on the implementation of the HRAP. ” The sad thing was that no one in authority seemed to care. I kept suggesting that the Action Plan we had drafted should be taken forward, but though in time the Attorney General assured me that he was putting to Cabinet what he described as ‘your Action Plan’, the lack of specific responsibility meant that it took another year to be finalized. Then it took six months for a system to be set up to ensure action but the necessary instructions have still not gone out formally to all Ministries.”[xiii]

 

 

 

 

 

Section 2: Some key concerns about Freedom of Expression & Opinion in Sri Lanka since the last UPR process of Sri Lanka in May 2008

 

Censorship:

 

  1. In November 2011 GoSL internet service provider Sri Lanka Telecom, which covered more than 80% internet connections in the country, blocked at least six websites without prior warning. Secretary to the Media Ministry admitted that the websites had been blocked as they violated laws but did not specify which news item of what date violated which law, and no charges have been filed for violating of any such laws to date.[xiv]

 

  1. The Free Media Movement (FMM) filed a Fundamental Rights petition in the Supreme Court over the blocking of websites. The case has been postponed over 3 times and leave to proceed has not been granted by the Supreme Court to date.

 

  1. In the meantime, dozens of news websites have been blocked by Government order.  The Department of Government Information under the Ministry of Mass Media and Information, has ordered all news websites that report onSri Lankato register with the ministry without any legal provisions to support its decision.

 

  1. On 12 March 2012, Sri Lanka’s Defense Ministry ordered news outlets to get prior approval before sending mobile phone alerts about the military or police. In a letter hand-delivered to news outlets including Reuters, the MediaCenterfor National Security (MCNS) Director-General Lakshman Hulugalle said the new order was effective immediately.[xv]

 

  1. The reintroduction and enforcement of draconian legislation in 2009 led to the reactivation[xvi] of the Press Council Act which empowers the Press Council to reccomend jail sentences of upto two years to jouranlists and media workers wihtout a formal court procedure. The Press Council requires the nomination of a representative of media organizations, but media organizations in Sri Lanka have opposed the Press Council and have not nominated a representative to the Council. The President of Sri Lanka has since appointed his own representative from a party which is closely allied with the ruling UPFA Government, to the Press Council.[xvii]

 

  1. During the height of the war and even after the end of the war, the govermment prevented international and local media from accessing the war affected areas and speaking with civilians in these areas.

 

  1. The Goverment also prevented foreign media from covering public hearings of the LLRC held in the North[xviii].

 

Arrests, detention and torture of journalists and publishers:

 

  1. A journalist was convicted in September 2009[xix] under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA). Several others were charged under the PTA and Emeregcy laws that were in place in 2008-2009. At least one journalist was tortured while in custody, Two journalists arrested and detained in March 2008 were finally released in October 2009, as there was no evidence, but they were released only after one of the jouralists agreed to withdraw the fundemental rights case he had filed against torture while in custody[xx].

 

  1. Iridia Lanka newspaper editor Chandana Sirimalwatte was arrested, detained and subsequently released in 2009[xxi]. Jayampathy Bulathsinhala and his family members incuding his wife, were arrested and detained in September 2010 for printing a poster that opposed the 18th Amendment to the Constitution by the governmnet that was widley seen as undemocratic[xxii].

 

  1. In 2011, News Editor of popular government critque Lanka e-News (www.lankaenews.com ) was arrested and detained.

 

Hate campaigns, obstructions and threats to campaigns on press freedom

 

35.              Hate speech against journalists conveyed through state media[xxiii] as well as threats of violence and death issued by a government minister[xxiv] – and the failure of the government to intervene – have given rise to concerns over the clamping down on dissent and engendered a fear psychosis in the media, despite the government’s pronouncements about and commitments relating to media freedom and democracy.[xxv] Almost all media institutions are directly or indirectly owned and / or managed by the state, hence there is very clear complicity of the government. In most cases the perpetrators have not been arrested and even in the few cases arrests were made there have been attempts to manipulate/subvert the judicial process.[xxvi]

 

  1. In January 2012, press freedom organizations in Sri Lankaorganized a campaign named “Black January”, to remember attacks on media institutions and journalists in general and especially those in the month of January in the preceding years and to demand justice and accountability. State media attempted to discredit the campaign, particularly targeting the Free Media Movement and included personal attacks against its FMM convenor Sunil Jayasekera and Committee Member Udaya Kalupathirana; Police resorted to unprecedented step of seeking a court order to stop the event[xxvii]. The court ultimately allowed the event to go ahead, but imposed restrictions and banned any marches. However, a pro-government group armed with clubs occupied the space designated for the “Black January” campaign by courts, chanted slogans discrediting press freedom activists and organizations and branding them as working for foreign money and in support of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). Although the pro-government protest occupied the area designated by courts for the Black January campaign, impeded public access to public transport, blocked an entire half of a busy road and engaged in marches, the police, which had actively sought court orders against the Black January campaign, did nothing to stop or restrict the pro-government protest. Organizers of the Black January protest eventually held their event at another location in order to avoid a violent attack and confrontation that looked inevitable.[xxviii]

 

  1. In August 2011, Police tried to obstruct a historic protest campaign against the attack on a senior News Editor of a local Tamil newspaper inJaffna, a city affected by war for years and which currently has a high military presence. The protest was led byColombobased press freedom groups together with concerned journalists and activists inJaffna.

 

  1. In November 2011, the Legal Advisor to the Cabinet told the UN Committee Against Torture that he has reliable information that Mr. Prageeth Ekneligoda, the cartoonist / journalist who disappeared on 24th January 2010, is living overseas. Mr. Ekneligoda’s wife sought the intervention of Courts, the National Human Rights Commission and the President of Sri Lanka to find out information that Mr. Peiris claimed to have, but nearly 6 months after the statement, no information has been provided. Mr. Peiris is yet to be summoned to Courts or before the National Human Rights Commission. During the last court hearing related to Mr. Peiris being summoned to courts, the state counsel choose to discredit the wife of the disappeared journalist[xxix]

 

39.              In the aftermath of the arson attack on Lanka e-News (www.lankaenews.com) and the arrest of its’ News Editor in early 2011, there appears to have been an attempt to implicate Lanka-e-News journalists in the attack. There were also threats to destroy lawyers and NGOs who were supporting e-News journalists[xxx].

 

Compelling journalists into exile and self censorship

 

40.              The severe repression of freedom of expression and constant attacks and threats led to an unprecedented exile of journalist fromSri Lankaduring the period 2009-2011. Most of the exiled journalists were those who were critical of the government and leaders of prominent press freedom organizations inSri Lanka. Amongst those in exile are two conveners of the Free Media Movement and two former Presidents of the Sri Lanka Working Journalists Association and senior editors and journalists who count more than 25 years of work as journalists. Majority of the exiled journalists are those who worked in Sinhalese and Tamil language and thus, it is extremely difficult to continue their journalism from exile. The exodus had led to a serious gap in activism for press freedom inSri Lanka. With few exceptions, most journalists remaining inSri Lankaexercise self censorship.

 

IV. Recommendations

 

        i.            Cease the harassment, threats, attacks and murders of and ensure a safe environment for all media workers.

 

      ii.            Ensure prompt investigations, arrests, prosecutions and convictions in relation to all attacks and threats to journalists and media institutions, including but not limited to those mentioned in this submission

 

    iii.            The President and the Minister for Media should publicly condemn and distance themselves from hate campaigns and public threats made against press freedom activists and human rights defenders by any person, including by Government Ministers, politicians and state media and ensure that all such cases are investigated and those responsible held accountable without considering political affiliations.

 

    iv.            Do away with requirement to register all websites and lift the blockage on websites

 

      v.            Do away with the requirement to obtain prior permission to send out mobile phone news alerts

 

    vi.            Abolish the Press Council

 

  vii.            Senior Advisor to the Cabinet, Mr. Mohan Peiris, should inform the family, Police, Courts,  the National Human Rights Commission and the general public about any information he has regarding the whereabouts of  disappeared journalist Prageeth Ekneligoda

 

  1. Enact the Right to Information Act, as requested by the media community and recomended by the LLRC

 

    ix.            Present to Parliament a specific action plan on what recommendations of LLRC will be implemented when and by whom, and indicating also involvement of opposition parties, civil society and OHCHR.

 

      x.            Voluntarily present a regular progress report to the Parliament on progress made on implementing the LLRC recommendations.

 

    xi.            Ratify the Optional Protocol to CAT and the Convention against Disappearances

 

  xii.            Extend a standing invitation to all Special Procedures, starting by at least now, honouring the commitment made in 2006 to invite the Special Rapportuer on Freedom of Expression and Opinion and extending invitations to other Special Procedures whose requests for invitations remain pending, including since 2006.

 


[viii]  From Free Media Movement press releases and news paper reports

[xi] i bid

[xvi] “Press Council reactivated”, Sunday Times, June 14, 2009, http://sundaytimes.lk/090614/News/sundaytimesnews_10.html

[xvii] Press Council Act of 1973

[xix] In September 2009, J.S. Tissainayagam, a journalist, was convicted under the Prevention of Terrorism Act for inciting “communal disharmony” by writing two articles for the North-Eastern Monthly magazine in 2006, which were critical of the government’s military campaign. Tissainayagam was detained by the Terrorism Investigation Department (TID) on March 7, 2008 without charge: “Release Tissainayagam NOW”, IFJ, September 8, 2009, http://asiapacific.ifj.org/en/articles/free-tissainayagam/; “J.S. Tissainayagam interview”, RSF, November 17, 2010, http://en.rsf.org/sri-lanka-j-s-tissainayagam-interview-17-11-2010,38836.html; “J.S. Tissainayagam, Sri Lanka, Sunday Times”, CPJ, 2009, http://cpj.org/awards/2009/js-tissainayagam-journalist-sunday-times.php

[xx] Section 7 of the IFJ report on “Key Challenges for Media at War’s End” available at http://asiapacific.ifj.org/assets/docs/236/115/1d464ec-8892c73.pdf

[xxiv] July 2009, Non-cabinet Labour Minister Mervyn Silva stated publicly at a meeting in his electorate that he “Lasantha from the Leader paper went overboard. I took care of him. Poddala (Jayantha) agitated and his leg was broken” (http://groundviews.org/2009/07/13/mervyn-silva-publicly-admits-to-killing-lasantha-wickrematunge-and-grievously-attacking-another-journalist/) ; In September 2010 Deputy Highways Minister Mervyn Silva (who had been promoted from a non cabinet minister to a deputy cabinet minister) told Parliament that he had evidence to prove that former Army Commander Sarath Fonseka ordered the assassination of the Sunday Leader Editor Lasantha Wickrematunga (http://www.island.lk/index.php?page_cat=article-details&page=article-details&code_title=7378) ;  In October 2010 The same deputy minister made a statement to a private TV channel on that he had evidence as to who killed the Sunday Leader Editor Lasantha Wickrematunge (http://www.thesundayleader.lk/2010/10/10/mervyn-refuses-to-give-details-of-lasantha%E2%80%99s-killers/); On 23 March 2012 Minister for Public Relations Mervyn Silva claimed he was “the one who chased Poddala Jayantha from Sri Lanka” (http://www.adaderana.lk/news.php?nid=17473 ). See also Charles Haviland, “Sri Lanka minister Mervyn Silva threatens journalists”, BBC, March 23, 2012, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-17491832; Easwaran Ratnam, “I will break your bones says Mervyn”, Sunday Leader, March 23, 2012, http://www.thesundayleader.lk/2012/03/23/i-will-break-your-bones-says-mervyn/; “Mervyn threatens to break limbs of journos”, Daily Mirror, March 23, 2012, http://dailymirror.lk/news/17607-mervyn-threatens-to-break-limbs-of-journos.html; “Video: No one can touch me as long as Rajapaksas are in power”, Ada Derana, March 27, 2012, http://www.adaderana.lk/news.php?nid=17520

[xxv] Recommendations on the freedom of expression accepted by the Government from the UPR 2008 included “Take measures to safeguard freedom of expression and protect human rights defenders, and effectively investigate allegations of attacks on journalists, media personnel and human rights defenders and prosecute those responsible” and “Take measures to improve safeguards for freedom of the press”.

[xxvi] One suspect in the murder of Lasantha Wickrematunge died in hospital after being admitted for chest pains. Another suspect a former army intelligence officer Kandegedara Priyawansa claimed in open court that an official of the Terrorist Investigation Division (TID) had promised him protection and a foreign job had he given evidence to the effect that a senior military officer was involved in the killing of the journalist. An application was made on the next date that Kandegedara Piyawansa’s statement be recorded and the Mt. Lavinia Magistrate proceeded to do so in Chambers. This statement was not made public nor placed on record but sent to the Inspector General of Police for a report which has been ignored to date. Whilst the TID insists in court that investigations are going on, no evidence has been forthcoming nor reported to Court. It is over three years since the murder and the Police reports to Court say that any further facts to Court would hamper a successful investigation. (http://www.thesundayleader.lk/2012/04/08/happy-birthday/ )